New to paddling. Help me narrow down?

I dont know anyone that kayaks but it has been something I have wanted to do for a while. I took a lesson to see what I thought and to try out different boats. They were not the best boats in the world but I got a feel for different lengths and quality in the sub $700 range.

I came away feeling like a 12’ boat was what I needed/wanted. I will be paddling open lakes mostly but will want to paddle a slow river or creek on occasion as well.

My wants.

Tracks easily

Quality/comfortable seat

Quality/easy access dry storage

under $1000

I have looked at the Wildneress Pungo 120 and the Dagger Axis 12 and the Perception Prodigy. The Wilderness seems to have the better seat and storage but the Dagger is reviewed better for agility and tracking. And both of these boats are maybe wider than I would like. The choice is becoming daunting.

Any help or recomendations would be GREATLY appreciated.

Pyranha Fusion
Hey, u gotta try this hybrid… a little over 9 feet, spins on a dime, rewards nice technique w. bow rudders and sweeps, and will outmanoeuver most little rec boats, and wow it paddles quickly on flat water.

It’s ww heritage can deftly handle any ww (up to Class IV)you might wanna do/have the chops for. This boat rolls if you wanna learn that. I did a wet roll no skirt and it came right around.

It comes w. one big dry stern hatch for long weekends.

There’s an optional pod designed for it that will give you a removable day hatch. It has a skeg which springs back inside the stern if you encounter any surprises while it’s down.

Try it with the Connect 30 outfitting package w. the sturdy foamed out footplates (instead or pegs) and the

sweet low backband w. the racheting adjustments on the band and the thigh braces. So comfy. I forgot it was all there.

Or get the River Tour package if you want a little looser fit w. standard foot pegs.

MSRP is under $1K - in fact most are selling new between $800-$900.

The Fusion comes in two sizes the standard and the new S size for smaller folks. I demo’d an S w. Connect 30 outfitting - it was the runaway star of demo day for me. Could very well be my next boat :smiley:

I wonder…
I have looked at a few hybrids. I just wonder if they make much sense for someone that is not going to do rapids.

How would this boat compare to the ones I mentioned in terms of speed on flat water? Or tracking?

I appreciate your input.

Hard to go wrong with the
Pungo 12 as long as you aren’t too heavy for it. You’ll eventually want something else if you move towards touring or whitewater, but a fast, stable 12 footer is a very versatile boat in all kinds of conditions. It makes a good buddy boat and you can do some fishing from it as well.


im 220lbs
I am not stuck on the Pungo if there are other better options. I just dont want to get stuck with a brick in the water. I have read that the Pungo is a good beginner boat but I am not really looking for a beginnger boat.

I am not even sure why its considered for beginners. Knowing that might would help me. Any ideas?

Hybrids versus

– Last Updated: May-18-10 3:13 PM EST –

The downside of hybrids is that they tend to track less hard than some of the other boats you mention, because maneuverability is crucial in moving water.

The up side of these boats is that they'll do the uses you mention OK, and will also be boats that'll do you decently if you want to learn to do things like roll, or handle a boat in current where you may need to edge the boat deeply. The Prodigy and the Pungo have much bigger cockpit openings, which is a liability if you really need to take the boat over on edge to turn it. These two are also simply not as solid on edge as a good hybrid will be.

The two scenarios where a deeper edge may be critical are in current and if you get caught out in higher winds.

All of the boats you mention will be more of a handful in wind than something with a lower profile to the water, but by then you are probably talking more boat (in terms of length) than you want right now.

It really depends on where you want to go from here. If you figure on moving into some heavy duty fishing, it's hard to beat a boat like the Pungo with tremendous upright stability and a conveniently large cockpit for tackle boxes and stuff. If you think you'll want to do kayaking in situations that will require more kayak-specific skills, the hybrids are a better choice.

The reason for the Pungo being regarded as a "good beginner boat" is that beginners are usually paddlers who, for the time being, are mostly interested in getting from point A to point B in flat water and with a very high likelihood of avoiding capsize. The Pungo does this quite well, for you as well as the family dog (unless the dog is a Great Dane).

At the point a paddler wants to get into more challenging conditions, the approach to avoiding capsize requires a boat that is different from the Pungo in a lot of ways, whether whitewater or ocean. It is at this point that the hybrid can go further, though it will be with the penalty of maybe being slower on the flats.

Also, the emphasis on tracking becomes less important as you get better at paddling, at least unless you are contemplating the racing environment or longer camping trips. I'm not saying it doesn't matter, just that it may matter less by September than it seems to right now.

These newer hybrids are pretty advanced designs, and this niche is much more richly supplied than even several years ago.

don’t need to be a ww boater to appreciate the Fusion.

It’s a quick, stable, comfortable boat on flatwater and for me at least a helluva lot more fun than the typical recreational kayak.

It is nice to know it has the ww capability if, say, you are doing a local river where the gauge is up and the water is moving more in the springtime. If your skills are up to it, you know the boat is made to handle it.

And it being a little over 9 feet makes it very adept at smaller rivers, creeks, etc. where it can get twisty and interesting.

The plastic on the Pyranha, given its ww heritage, is a lot stronger than that found on many rec kayaks. It’s thicker on the hull and on the nose, where it counts.

As for comparisions…Prodigy is a basic rec boat…Pungo 120 is a snap up.

Don’t take this as a diss - rec boats get a lotta people on the water and that’s a good thing! They put a priority on primary stability created by, among other things, overall width, wide stern and deep cockpits, and because of that priority there are tradeoffs in handling and performance.

You could do more skills-wise in a Fusion - not even talking about rolls, just more responsive handling in braces and strokes. And the Fusion pivots 180 degrees w. one sweep stroke faster and more precisely than any rec boat I’ve ever tried, even the quick light little Santees by Hurricane Aquasports.

Which reminds me… you can find a Santee new or used within your budget(there are different models w. different lengths and cockpits sizes, check their website)… have seen 'em at $700-800 new, about $100-200 less used. They weigh 32-36 lbs are very tough ABS plastic and would paddle great on calm inland lakes and rivers Class I & II…

The Fusion also doesn’t “yaw” side to side as much (and thus waste energy/efficiency as much) as a little wide rec boat. I was expecting a lot more ‘slop’ when I paddled a Fusion, man, I was completely amazed by the tracking… and I never deployed the skeg at all, I forgot to.

And the Fusion is very stable.My friend was paddling one up and down a Detroit River channel like a champ… it was something like his 5th time in a kayak…

Dagger Axis I haven’t tried… so can’t compare.

Dagger Alchemy 140S I like very much - but it’s a different critter at 14 feet, more like a small seakayak, and the list is ~$1300. It would really cruise lakes better than any of these, but it’s comparing an apple w. oranges.

While you’re looking keep your mind open and try lots of boats… if I could convey anything it’s not to narrow down too quickly to one or two models.

Disclaimer: not affiliated w. Pyranha or Hurricane AquaSports, or any other kayak company… I just get to try a lotta boats :smiley:

Pyranha Fusion length
now that you state your weight you’d be sized for the regular Fusion - which is 10’2"… the S is 9’8"… sorry about getting that wrong.

This is a really great paddling hybrid on flat water.

It is not like any hybrid I’ve tried. You need a good high angle compact stroke, and good torso rotation, but any paddler can do that, and you will see that the boat moves in flat water very well.

The outfitting is super comfortable, well made and not a jillion little hinky hard plastic parts that break and take weeks to replace…

Don’t cross it off your list til you try it. It’ll open your eyes to the possibilities.

You could also try the Liquid Logic EXP10 as well. Liquid Logic builds a fine boat and many swear by their “Bad Ass” outfitting… I personally much preferred the outfitting on the Fusion but YMMV.

Neither one is a “beginner boat” but they are friendly to beginners…some beginner boats are that, do that very well, but stay beginner boats… there is a difference.

At 220 lbs
you probably want a 14 footer. This is obviously a very general statement, but I weight 220 lbs and there is often a big difference in plowing water in a 12 foot kayak and actually enjoying a 14 footer.

The Pungo 14 is a great rec boat. The Tsunami 145 is a step up from there and is more sea-worthy. Basically it has two bulkheads which will matter if/when you have to self rescue.

Lots of good big guy boats out there though.


Ok seriously. Thanks for all of the great responses. It helps a lot. I wish I had the option to try a lot of boats before I buy one. Actually two. I will be buying one for my wife at the same time. The only place locally to even look and sit in a decent selection is at REI. So I will never even be able to sit in the Fusion unless I buy it sight unseen. I am going to have to think on this a bit…

Thanks a lot for the help!

wifey & you
OK, two diff. strategies:

if she’s not really into kayaking, and is mainly doing it to keep you company, get a little rec boat for her, one tho that’s big enough for you at your weight to paddle as a kick around boat.

Then get yourself something a couple of snaps up, like a Necky Manitou 14, a bigger Tsunami, even the Dagger Axis. Something that is not an absolute beginner boat that you can do different things with. Too bad you can’t get to a Pyranha…are you sure? call a dealer, they can often arrange demos…

If you know she’s reasonably athletic and keen on paddling, then do get a boat that’s sized right for her height and weight - don’t saddle her w. a barrel that will be uncomfortable to paddle and a bear to fight in the wind. In that case, unless you are both about the same weight and height, don’t do the his and her thing w. identical kayaks.

Keep room in the budget for two comfortable, well appointed PFDs and some mid quality paddles (avoid heavy aluminum shafts, esp for her) REI’s selection in both categories is fairly good, and buying as a package will save you 15-20% on accessories including the pump, paddle float, whistle and drybag you’ll each want for your boat…

Another Approach…

– Last Updated: May-19-10 8:50 PM EST – to consider looking around for a used kayak. You can get a lot of bang for your buck.

My wife's first kayak was a Cape Horn 15 - a lovely intro-level sea kayak, very stable and forgiving for a new paddler, yet with lots of room for skill development. She bought it from a small company that leases kayaks to local outfitters - one season old, in impeccable shape, 2/3 of retail before taxes, which run 15% in this neck of the woods. Today, if she was to sell it, it'd probably fetch about 2/3 of what she paid eight years ago. While she has moved on to a faster and more responsive S&G kayak, she still uses the Cape Horn occasionally, and it's our go-to boat when we have a chance to get non-paddling friends out for a spin...

Check out the classifieds - it'll give you an idea of what's out there, and how the price/features balance compares to the boats you've been considering. Also weigh the fact that you can probably get a higher percentage of your money back with used boats if you decide to change boats as your paddling advances...

excellent suggestion
if the OP is up for a little more research, a little more driving around, and the willingness to buy one boat at a time if need be, this could net two boats at a nice price. Often a paddle, etc. is included or available at an appealing discount over new.

And sometimes, two boats can be had from one place (an outfitter, a paddleshop’s demo or floor models) at a very good price with a discount on any accessories purchased with the boats.

Paddling clubs are often a great source too. You and the wife might consider joining one - for paddling partners, some useful info about places to paddle, gear, clothing, boats, etc.

OP, where are you? People could suggest places to look, demo days coming up, etc. (other than REI’s, no diss to them but they carry a pretty limited number of boat brands).

I live in the
Nashville area. I have been looking at Craigs and the paper (only whitewater kayaks to be had at the moment). I am going to join a group I met through - I know they get a discount through Dicks but there arent any boats I am interested in from there. Just not any paddling shops around here that I can find which is unfortunate. Now East TN is whole other story.

ask REI about demos
Our REI put on demos last year, yours might also. Nothing to narrow down your choices like seat time.

ALso check out which greatly simplifies looking for a used boat in your area. It searches Craigslist, and others.

And there is a pretty decent REI in Franklin, TN. I think Opry Mills had a boat store with a few kayaks, but I don’t remember what the selection was like.


I’m not a kayaker…but I think you need

– Last Updated: May-20-10 9:05 AM EST –

to just get out and paddle as much as possible....used at used-prices, as mentioned are a great way to go....
go to the pulldown menu for Gear Swap… yup mainly ww there but touring boats do get listed and some are within driving range for you.

Or take a short vacation up here in Michigan - the best of our paddling season is just starting and we are awash w. all kinds of bargains in used boats, or demo boats… the economy being what it is, prices are down…

current designs kestral
in the models 12hv or 14 ft version for someone your size great on flatwater tracks well and works nicely on float streams. the seat may not be as comfortable as some but it can be padded to suit you… there are other current design models that may suit you as well give them a look.see …

Bass Pro Shops
is the store in Opry Mills. It, with a lot of other stores, are a little wet for the moment and closed. The REI is a nice store and I just went to look and sit in a few boats…